benefits, features and training options

Although “mountain running” sounds more like a form of torture to many, it is still a type of training that has many benefits. Why run and how to do it well, read our article.

Runners fall into two camps: those who like to “run the hills” and those who hate it. And, perhaps, there are still others – who have never tried. Of course, an unforeseen spike in a run can muddy the waters: pace will drop, pulse will go up – and the picture won’t be the same. But if you use the terrain for specific training, you can “extract” a lot of benefits from it.

The many benefits of hill training and hill running for runners have been known for a long time, and they are widely used in practice. However, only a few years ago special studies were conducted that scientifically confirmed the benefits of such workouts.

Dr. Derek Furley from South Dakota set up an experiment: For six weeks, he studied the performance of two control groups of runners – one of them ran uphill repetitions twice a week, and the the other trained only on a flat surface. As a result, those who “ran the hills” improved their top speed, and they also learned to maintain it 32% longer.

Benefits of running uphill

1. Hill running allows you to achieve more intensity in less time and distance. Working to the maximum improves BMD indicators, and also “teaches” the body to process lactate, thereby increasing the pace at the anaerobic threshold.

Simply put, by training hard with maximum effort (and you can reach that level of load faster uphill than at regular intervals on a flat surface), the body gets used to coping with such a load – meaning what’s underneath becomes easier to feel. Of course, the same effect can be obtained on the plain, but you will have to develop greater speed (and this is not always allowed by the muscles).

2. “Slips” create a great load on the muscles – thereby developing and strengthening them. In addition, when running uphill, additional muscles are activated and developed (compared to flat), which contributes to greater stability when running.

Hill Climb: Benefits, Features and Training Options

3. Running uphill puts a huge strain on the nervous system. They improve the “head-to-foot” connection, which allows to obtain better performance in “explosive” loads.

4. Hard uphill workouts build willpower. Since the high-intensity load comes faster and earlier, it takes longer to bear – and the psyche adapts to this state.

5. Running uphill with an incline improves technique because running uphill, landing on one foot in front of the body, is nearly impossible. As a result, the slope appears to land a person below the pelvis and on the front surface of the foot, i.e. technically correct.

Finally, running uphill is essential in the preparation of a trail competition when the elevations are frequent.

How to prepare for a mountain trail run

Hill Climb Rules

However, uphill intervals are not for everyone. There are a number of things to keep in mind when doing this workout.

  • You can start such training only after building up the base, that is, after at least 6 weeks of systematic training at least three times a week. Otherwise, a sharp increase in the load can lead to injury or overtraining.
  • A warm-up at an easy pace for at least 15 minutes is a must before starting uphill speed work.
  • When running, you do not need to look under your feet – this will violate the correct geometry of the body and shift the center of gravity.
  • Looking at the very top of the hill is also wrong, especially if the slope is steep. It is best to look about 5 meters in front of you.
  • Avoid tilting the lower back – the body should be kept level, but the general slope of the body should be observed forward.

Measure load with training level. If there is no big “raid” behind you, you should start with a small number of uphill repetitions (2-3), adding one or two each week.

Although the above experiment involves two uphill workouts per week, it is optimal to do such a workout every 7 days.

Upward intervals should be alternated with downward runs. If we are not talking about specific preparation for running in the mountains, when it comes to working on the descents, you have to go down at a slow trot, which allows your pulse to recover.

Hill Climb: Benefits, Features and Training OptionsTypes of uphill running workouts

To pick up speed on the highway

30 second runs uphill at the speed limit (or 100 or 200 meter slides), downhill – on foot or jog (about two minutes).

Such a load is similar to plyometrics and trains the explosive strength of the muscles, which gives an increase in speed on any terrain. You can start with 5-8 repetitions and work up to 12-15. After such repetitions, you can finish your training with a one or two kilometer run across the plain. A hill with a slope of 10-20% is suitable.

For the trail

Three-minute uphill runs at the anaerobic threshold (approximately 70-80% of maximal effort). Between them, rest on the tracks for two to three minutes.

Such training is aimed not so much at developing speed as at improving speed endurance and getting used to rough terrain. For her, slides with a slope of 10% are suitable.

To improve running biomechanics

Its operation is described above. You can use a 5-15% incline and intervals longer than 15 seconds. The goal is not to get the most out of yourself, but to focus on cadence, core work, and landing the legs below the pelvis. It is good to do such accelerations after the main training (for example, a 10-kilometer cross-country run), start with 5 repetitions and work up to 20.

For hilly runs

If you are going to run in the hills or in the mountains, this training will be very useful for you. It can be integrated into long workouts or done separately.

After a light warm-up, do 6-8 hill runs (5-15% incline) with 70% effort. After – 1 km of easy running (more advanced runners can skip this step), and after another 2-5 km of fast paced running. Running at the start of training will tire the short muscle fibers, and on the tempo part on the flat, the long muscles responsible for endurance will be more involved in the work.

Universal drive

To develop both speed and speed endurance, more advanced runners can alternate running uphill with maximum effort and 70-80% of it. For example, 200m max – jog down – 300m at anaerobic threshold – downhill again. You can start with 4 repetitions and increase their number to 8.

mountain fartlek

The essence of such training is to maintain a rhythm (but not effort) on hilly terrain. After warming up in an aerobic mode across the plain, start running, trying to keep up with the pace (the effort increases and the pulse increases). On the descent you do the same, but here, on the contrary, you need less effort to maintain speed – and the pulse is partially restored.

This workout simulates hilly runs well and trains speed endurance. Its duration depends on the level of training and the tasks of the runner.

What is a fartlek and how to perform it

So, uphill reps allow you to get more return from your workout in less time and distance. Depending on the runner’s goals and training, you can use different options for uphill training. The main thing is to choose the filler wisely and not to overdo it. One such training per week is the best option for most runners.

At the same time, “hills” are useful for both marathon runners and trail runners, in addition to the development of MPC and endurance, they have a good effect on running biomechanics.

Certainly, they must be treated with respect: it is often during the race that old running injuries are remembered or that new ones appear. This is why the load must be increased dosed and listening to your body.

Finally, it is important to pay attention to the behavior of the heart rate during the race (not all repetitions uphill are done at maximum effort), as well as to monitor her recovery between intervals (she must have time to fall significantly; if this does not happen, descend even more slowly). Sensation-wise, a rush of endorphins after such a workout is guaranteed, but you’ll have to endure the process.

Try several options and decide for yourself which side you are on – those who like the “hills” or their opponents.